The Doolittle Raiders, as they became known, were a squadron of eighty scarcely trained young men led by the famous daredevil aviator Jimmy Doolittle. Their mission-the daring World War II bombing raid of Tokyo and other cities in April 1942-was successful until Japanese spies forced most of the squadron to crash-land in enemy-occupied China, where pilots were ferried underground across the country to safety. One plane landed in the Soviet port of Vladivostok, where the crew was eventually smuggled out of the country through Persia. Others were captured by the Japanese, confined to years of imprisonment and torture. The fact that 90 percent of the men involved came home alive was little short of a miracle.
Extensively researched, including interviews with twenty of the twenty-seven remaining survivors, The First Heroes vividly recreates America's first great victory of World War II. Craig Nelson follows the Doolittle Raiders from their secret training on a Florida airfield to their tense days in transit across the Pacific to the bombing itself and finally to their courageous accounts of survival against astonishing odds. This story of America's striking back at its enemies after a vicious surprise attack will resonate widely with the general public today and is sure to appeal to all readers of Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation.